banter n Pronc-sp banner chiefly Sth, Midl Cf banter v 2
1 a A proposal of a bargain or wager; a challenge, dare. [Of Ulster Scots origin; see EDD banter sb. 2 and 2006 Montgomery From Ulster 17]
1787 CT Jrl. (New Haven) 8 Aug /3, After a few moments, the other person came into the room in which they were, and appeared a perfect stranger to the company.—Some banters began, and from one thing to another they went on, till the honest countryman lost thirty-nine hard dollars. 1835 Longstreet GA Scenes 26, “Well,” said Blossom, [“]make a pass at me.” “No,” said Peter; “you made the banter; now make your pass.” 1836 Spirit of Times 6.201 MS, A Banter to the Owners of Jim K. Polk! If they consider him a race horse, and wish to show it to the world, I will give him a small turn for $1000, with my Havoc filly Voila, according to rule, and they may set the distance. . . J. R. Head Manchester, Miss[.], June 20, 1836. 1872 Harper’s New Mth. Mag. 45.28/2 PA, But, having a mind to try the mare a little stretch, I took up his banter. 1883 Harris Nights with Remus 301 GA [Black], Brer Wolf know mighty well . . dat ef he dast ter back out fum a banter lak dat he never is ter year de las’ un it fum Miss Meadows en Miss Motts en de gals. 1892 DN 1.235 cwMO, Banter: to dare. . . Used also as a noun. 1908 DN 3.289 eAL, wGA, Banter, n. and v. To challenge as to trade. 1950 Jrl. Amer. Folkl. 63.432 MO, Children about to perform some hazardous “banner,” such as jumping from a high place, often chant.
b spec in phr whet a banter: To whet one’s scythe in a fashion that conveys a challenge to other mowers; hence n banterlick the peculiar stroke of the whetstone that conveys such a challenge.
1909 in 1950 Fletcher PA Ag. 1640–1840 120, There was a sentiment clinging around those old-time days of haying and harvest. . . The early start in the dewy grass; . . the “whetting the banter” by a peculiar clip of the rifle or whetstone, wherein a hidden challenge was given to the rest; the mortification of the luckless wight who was “mowed around” at the risk of amputation of one or more legs. 1921 Rusler Std. Hist. Allen Co. OH 1.233, In the evolution of harvesting methods have come the reap hook or sickle, the grain cradles with the best man cutting the widest swath, never failing to whet a banter into his blade, and the test of strength was to cross the field in the shortest space of time. 1927 AmSp 2.366 cwWV, Whet a banter . . to challenge for a contest in mowing by the manner of whetting the scythe. “John whet a banter just then.” 1936 AmSp 11.318 Ozarks, Whet a banner . . To make a loud rattle with a whetstone, scraping it on a scythe or cradle. A sort of challenge to other reapers at harvest-time. a1975 Lunsford It Used to Be 164 sAppalachians, The “banterlick” is a lick used in whetting a scythe, and when a person is in the harvest field and others are there with their scythes and cradles ready to go, and the man feels like he can cut around them or lead the entire group, he will whet the banterlick, that is, strike the blade first on one side and then on the other, and drops [sic] back and hits the blade twice as he comes out and drops back on the other side.
2 A match or contest.
1859 (1968) Bartlett Americanisms, Banter. . . Southern and Western. “There will be a banter on the bare ground,” meaning a shooting-match. 1906 DN 3.125 nwAR, Banter. . . A game.